Comics Land, vol. 1-4

goatboatCapstone’s Comics Land series offers short, funny stories for beginning readers. The books are in an eight by eight square format, rather than the traditional easy reader vertical rectangle. Each book opens with an introduction to the main characters and finishes with a one page preview of another title in the series. They also include a glossary (or “Word Power!”) and a visual glossary of comic conventions as shown in the story. Each book has the same game: matching different comic art (like speech balloons, narrative boxes, etc.) to their label, a scrambled word game that changes in each title, and something to find in the story—red beans, green bananas, tin cans, or nuts. The final activity is a tutorial on drawing the main character of the story, followed by a brief biography of the author(s) and artist.

Frank ‘n’ Beans introduces a common enough complaint among children: having to eat those awful beans! But Frank has barely started grumbling when a strange, giant green monster shows up and starts eating his beans…and each of those beans starts a magical transformation! They go on a wild adventure, with frequent yells of BEANS! and POP! as each transformation happens.

The Good, The Bad, and the Monkeys is a typical Western tale of a boy and his beloved horse riding the range, fighting off rustlers, protecting the…monkeys? There are lots of funny twists in this story that will have kids giggling aloud at each turn of the page.

My Little Bro-Bot is a classic tale of a new sibling. Sam is pretty excited about her new baby brother, even if he is a robot, but what happens when he grows up? Will he still need her? Will they get trapped far, far, away because he refuses any help from his “big” sister?

Goat on a Boat is an adventure story. Billy the Goat is on the search for treasure, and he’s not afraid of the monsters that everyone says are out there. Sure enough, he encounters both treasure and monsters, but it’s not the treasure he’s looking for! Will he survive the monsters long enough to find the real treasure to take back home?

Jess Bradley’s art is the perfect fit for these over-the-top silly stories. Her characters are all chunky and boldly drawn, with thick lines, strong color, and lots of simple but clear action. The comic panels are laid out simply and clearly, and it’s easy to follow the progression of the story from one panel to the next. There’s a strong sense of timing and cohesion in the art and stories, making it impossible to separate them from each other. The surprise twists are timed nicely, with bold visual cues in the art, and the characters’ bold and minimal style still allows them to express simple emotions, suitable for the comprehension level of beginning readers.

These stories are all classic tropes with silly twists. The easy reader audience will be just old enough to appreciate the broad humor and visual jokes as well as the fracturing of familiar stories like cowboys and treasure hunting. The format is a little discouraging, since they look more like small picture books than easy readers and many kids (and parents) don’t want to check out anything that looks like a “baby book,” but the covers are very attractive and should help people get over the shape. The font is smaller than what I like to see in an easy reader, but it’s laid out with the art very attractively and should be easy to follow, even if it’s a little on the small size. They are also available as very affordable hardcovers, not just paperback or library bound as is usual with a publisher like Capstone. They will be a hit with kids who are just starting to read on their own and want silly and funny stories with lots of pictures.

Comics Land
Volume 1: Frank ‘n’ Beans
by Amy Lemke, Donald Lemke, Scott Sonneborn, John Sazaklis
Art by Jess Bradley
ISBN: 9781434249883
Capstone, 2013
Publisher Age Rating: 5-7

Volume 2: The Good, the Bad, and the Monkeys
by Scott Sonneborn
Art by Jess Bradley
ISBN: 9781434249456
Capstone, 2013
Publisher Age Rating: 5-7

Volume 3: My Little Bro-Bot
by Amy Lemke, Donald Lemke
Art by Jess Bradley
ISBN:  9781434262851
Capstone, 2013
Publisher Age Rating: 5-7

Volume 4: Goat on a Boat
by John Sazaklis
Art by Jess Bradley
ISBN: 9781434262820
Capstone, 2013
Publisher Age Rating: 5-7